Mission StatementOBSCURA proudly endeavors to expand complex LGBTQ+ stories and characters across genres. Find us where a queer love story meets experimental horror. We're past coming out. Now it's time to represent our awakening onscreen.
About The Project
OBSCURA is a 25 minute LGBTQ+ film in the genre of fantasy / horror. Shot around Austin, TX, Obscura follows lonely photographer Robin (Jesse Ray Payne). Fatigued by the barrage of insecurities that dominate one’s early 20s, he craves his own dissolution…in love. Enter Kai; flamboyant, seemingly fearless, especially jaded, and for whom the self-confidence Robin yearns for appears to come so. dang. easy. Robin would follow Kai anywhere, even into the belly of an abandoned crop house for a glam-punk photoshoot...
Lured deeper into the house, Robin and Kai discover a witchy camera obscura, projections of the corn field outside cast across the crumbling space. The surreal magic of the projection offers a false security for the maybe couple, emboldening Robin to finally confess his love for Kai... but can Kai overcome their fear of intimacy?
With the fate of their relationship hanging in the balance, the slow burn of the obscura erupts, lending their likenesses to the ever watching scarecrows in the fields outside. Robin, lost in the corn, and Kai, trapped in the dark house, are stalked by perverted, scarecrow twins of the other. These straw doppelgangers reveal their darkest fears and projections, as each is hunted and seduced, fighting for a new kind of freedom.
Dating back to the 16th century, a camera obscura is a darkened room with a small hole or lens at one side through which the refracting light—much like that which enters our pupils— projects an inverted image of the exterior space across the opposing wall.
Upon seeing this optical phenomenon photographed in the 2013 documentary Tim’s Vermeer, I was struck by its visual and metaphorical potentiality: light and dark, internal and external spaces in relationship, and the resulting projection bridging the two worlds.
A Note From The Director
"We've been blessed to have an increasingly inclusive landscape of LGBTQ+ representation in film. But it's always struck me that the classic gay story is almost always about "coming out." Roll the credits. While there is certainly great liberation in coming out and finally living life on your own terms, for me it was so much more of a beginning than an end.
So I knew OBSCURA would start beyond the credits, by centering young queer characters who wear their gayness with pride—might even fight you about it—and yet still struggle with the residual seeds of shame. See shame doesn't disappear overnight, in fact, it intends to blossom. And more often than not, we are too steeped in that shame to consider ourselves worthy of love, or too conditioned to hiding out truth from the world to truly let someone in enough to sustain a healthy relationship. It can take many years to heal. I want to see those years represented onscreen.
I'm talking heavy, but OBSCURA is meant to be FUN and SCARY, sometimes STUPID, offering us the WEIRD escape only a horror film can. It is the strangest, most horrific, and fantastical film I've ever made. And yet at every step it has asked me to be brave, and to bare more of myself—the parts of my experience we are taught to hide—than I have ever dared to before. It has been the hardest thing I've ever done. And there is no way I could have brought it this far without the support of a beyond incredible, ridiculously talented team of artistic collaborators. But I believe it's all been worth it.
For the ability to face our demons and open ourselves up to kindness, both from ourselves and others, is absolutely crucial to our survival."
ROBIN, fearlessly played by Austin based actor Jesse Ray Payne, represents the artistic soul, the dreamer. He craves true intimacy in a world that prizes romantic stoicism and sexual conquest. Despite his penchant for optimism, he is riddled with anxiety and often tortured by the dissonance between his romantic expectations and his perceived reality of a world that is too often opportunistic and emotionally obscured. He is all of us, on our journey to self-love, giving our hearts to those who are not ready to show us love in return.
His color is blue for idealism, and he wears a chain belt and choker with a yellow lock, representing his longing to break free from confinement of his singular, interior struggle.
KAI, portrayed by writer/director Tay Mansmann, is an empowered yet complex representation of modern queerness. In many ways their self-expression feels liberated, even enviable, and yet they carry core hurts that have intertwined their sense of worth with performance. They embody the queer struggle to accept ourselves as inherently worthy of love beyond the expectations placed on gay people to be constantly sassy, entertaining, beautiful, sexual, fashionable, or generally high acheiving in order to be accepted and loved.
Their color is red for passion and anger, and they are adorned with shields, barbed jewelry, and clawed acrylics to showcase their subconscious drive to keep others at a distance.
OBSCURA was shot on location in Lockhart, TX in an abandoned dairy farm renovated by Tay and our all-star producer Mary-Elizabeth Esquibel. Additional filming took place at two separate corn field locations around Austin, one of which (fun+creepy fact) happened to be in direct view of the house from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, one of our references for the film!
The Obscura effect was created through projection mapping by our projectionist Logan Smith using 6 different projectors that were wired through the ceiling to a generator outside!
Our climactic set piece was designed and built by local carpentry magician Austin Shirley; we wanted to evoke a sense of paganism and witch trials of old.
Our character costumes and makeup give homage to the 1980s, a colorful decade of larger than life creativity in horror and fashion. The reverence for the 80s persists today in alternative queer culture. I wanted a costume aesthetic that was both visually graphic and reflective of an authentic expression of queerness and genderfunk to which I personally relate. Costume design was certainly a highlight of the process.
Our Scarecrow costumes and fully puppetable special effects were made by David Garcia, Nikita Kalyana, Creative Producer Ann Chen, local art teacher Katy Potts, and Tay. We strived to queer the American scarecrow archetype, while maintaining the integrity of the classic silhoette, bucolic textures, and earthy color palette. Textiles were upcycled from local farm materials, household objects, and thrift store fabrics.
Have you ever gotten so scared watching a horror film that you had to mute the sound? If you have, you know how essential good sound design is to the success of the horror genre. We are working with a sound designer, score composer, foley artists, and a sound mixer to bring the soundscape of OBSCURA to life.
Music plays a HUGE role in OBSCURA, as our hero prop—in the true fashion of our 80s aesthetic—is a cassette mixtape Robin made for Kai. Throughout the film, the diegetic music grants us insight into Robin's romantic hopes for the day, which—as things horrifically fall apart—intensifies a disharmony with reality. Through the use of music, we are therefore able to track hope and desire alongside the realization of deepseated fears.
OBSCURA will feature an original song by Austin post-punk band Urban Heat, the iconic Adore Delano, as well as THREE other exceptional artists.
We want our musicians and designers to be fairly compensated for their art, which is the primary motivator for this campaign. We would be so grateful for your contribution and support!
FINANCIAL NEEDS — $10,000
Obscura was a huge financial and artistic leap of faith, the debts from which I'm still working hard to pay off. Please consider supporting us through the finish line.
- VFX $2000
- SOUND DESIGN / FOLEY $2000
- MUSIC & SCORE $5000
- DISTRIBUTION!!! $1000
STRETCH GOAL — $2,500>>>
- EDITOR COMPENSATION
- OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION DEBTS
- META MUSIC VIDEO FOR OUR ORIGINAL SONG BY URBAN HEAT ft. footage from the film (shooting this summer!)
With your contribution, OBSCURA will be screened in May at the Texas Union as part of the UT Austin Graduate Thesis Showcase. Follow us on instagram @obscura_shortfilm for updates.
THANK YOU!!! Love, T.
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About This Team
Obscura is the product of great collaborative effort from a wonderfully courageous, exceptionally talented team who showed up to tell this story and create art against all odds; through rain, mud, spoopy (probably haunted) houses, and not to mention an ongoing pandemic. This is for them.
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